A Kentucky man with an anxiety disorder has been awarded $450,000 after his colleagues threw him an office birthday party against his wishes not to celebrated on his birthday to avoid triggering a panic attack.
Kevin Berling, 29, was working as a lab technician at Gravity Diagnostics in Covington when his co-workers conducted the lunchtime surprise birthday celebration for him back in August 2019.
Berling said he subsequently suffered a panic attack from the unwanted attention, and was soon fired from Gravity Diagnostics. He later filed a compensation suit against the company in a Kenton County court.
On March 31, a jury awarded him $450,000 having found that Berling suffered an “adverse employment action” because of his anxiety disability according to court documents.
Founder and Chief Operating Officer Julie Brazil said that Berling was terminated for violating a “workplace violence policy” and that the company stands by its decision.
Tony Bucher, an attorney for Berling, said his client posed no threat. “I think the significance for employers is that they need to understand that they shouldn’t make assumptions about individuals with mental health issues. Kevin was an exceptional employee that went above and beyond for his employer and if they would have taken a step back, it would have been clear that he did not present any danger at all.”